Toned-down Columbus Day celebrated Monday

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
By: 

David Polashek, Special to the Times Herald

Monday morning’s U.S. post office mail was nonexistent to those living along the path around the Falls, and even email contact had been cut off from some regular early morning conversationalists. None of this had to do with the federal government shutdown, even though one might suspect that to be the case. The more apparent sparks for the communication breakdown had to do with the observance of Columbus Day.

Oct. 12 was the day Christopher Columbus made landfall on his first journey to the New World back in 1492. Since 1971, rather than celebrating on the 12th, the observance was moved to the second Monday in October, providing one of several three-day weekends for many government employees, along with a number of private-sector employees. Bank employees used to count themselves in that group, but as competition got more intense in the finance industry, paying tribute to Chris became a lower priority.

Many Americans who have passed the mid-century mark can recall that celebrating Columbus Day was a big deal when they were in elementary school. There may have been pageants and reenactments in elementary classrooms.

It is given much less prominence today due to the sense that focusing on Columbus’ landing ignores the fact that there were thriving cultures in North America when he arrived. Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people. It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus’ actions.

This new perspective on the impact of the European contact came to a head just prior to the 500th anniversary of the landing. As a result, the celebrations in 1992 were much less prominent than might have been the case if the concern about being “politically correct” had not struck such a chord in the nation’s conscience. We would note than most of the schools in Illinois still close for the holiday, but then again, that may say more about Illinois than it does about Columbus.

It wasn’t a voyage of explorers coming to a new land that was celebrated Friday night at Memorial Field, but rather alumni returning to the community to celebrate homecoming. In what may have been a record crowd for the season, fans streamed in to watch the Panther football team show its grit on the playing field. Conditions were just about perfect for a Friday night football contest.

Once again, the Panthers did not make a mark in the win column but did score three touchdowns, continuing to show promise for the program as it goes through a rebuilding effort. Marks in the win column alone do not measure the positive impact of a program. Many other indicators are on the upswing. There will be a slightly more level playing field (no pun intended) next year as the first of two conference realignment moves changes the mix of teams the Panthers will face. The student enrollments of the new grouping will be more in line with the enrollment at Oconto Falls High School.

Perhaps not as much as a deck hand on that first voyage on the Santa Maria, but OFHS has been bounced around quite a bit when it comes to athletic conferences. The WIAA is concerned about parity and balance, and the old sage’s adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” may also play a part.

Speaking of squeaky wheels, last week’s announcement of a candidate for the 2014 Wisconsin governor’s race from a member of the minority party will make things interesting. Some observers suggested that a hastily called news conference by the governor’s office two days later to announce an income tax cut was not completely disconnected from the earlier announcement.

The Legislature will be taking up the proposal this week in Madison. Loss of state support for school districts and the resulting increases in property taxes most likely will not be on the table during that discussion.

The search for compromise and working to reach consensus seems to be a lost art, both on the federal level and even in many corners of the Capitol in Madison. “My way or the highway” may make for good sound bites in the media, but in the meantime, there is pain.

We may celebrate Columbus for “discovering” a new world, but it’s time to discover how to develop better relationships between the people living in that new world.

David Polashek is superintendent of the Oconto Falls School District.